Archive for December, 2009

Nathan Wyeth, editor at NextBillion, follows up last week’s discussion on sustainable global development with thoughtful consideration of how to best structure and channel adaptation aid. You can read an excerpt from his second post on the Copenhagen Climate Summit below (emphasis added):

“Copenhagen Climate Summit: Shaping Adaptation Finance”

Accordingly, adaptation has entered the lexicon of the negotiations, but is contemplated now through an aid and public spending lens.  It is likely that billions of dollars, hopefully additive to existing public aid flows, will be earmarked for adaptation.  There is in-depth if speculative discussion of where this money will come from, such as fees on international shipping and air travel, but much less has gone into how this money should be spent.  Little if anything is clear about who will administer this money, how it will be purposed and distributed, to whom it will be distributed, what the specific goals might be, and how success will be evaluated.

The United Nations’ agencies are not well situated to manage this and besides it being politically problematic, many might not be inclined to trust the U.N. to do the job well. The World Bank has overseen the Global Environment Fund created in the early 90’s but developing nations in particular are somewhere between skeptical of and staunchly opposed to a similar approach now.  But no matter how this money flows, the overall approach and expectations for adaptation funding and finance will guide it no matter what form it takes. (more…)


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Some food for thought here: friend-of-Breakthrough Generation, Nathan Wyeth, pens a very thoughtful column on the Copenhagen climate summit focused on the key challenges of fueling sustainable global development and expanded energy-access to the billions of energy poor worldwide, via the new WRI-affiliated blog, NextBillion.net:

Excerpts below with emphasis added:

Copenhagen Climate Summit: The Missing Billions

But although they are often discussed here as the first and worst victims of climate change, the base of the pyramid is, at first glance, invisible in the negotiations in the shape of solutions to climate change. Except in the context of avoiding tropical deforestation, carbon finance relevant to the base of the pyramid is at best a niche conversation. If intensive energy use and land development equal carbon emissions, the base of the pyramid would by definition not appear to be terribly relevant.

This means I have less to blog about except for maybe some side events, but plenty to say. I would argue that there’s is a huge amount wrong with the orientation of these negotiations and the fact that the base of the pyramid is absent gets to the heart of the issue. In a vicious cycle, the weakening of the negotiations will lead to failure in their intended impact, simply hurting the poor even more.

The G77 bloc is angling to increase the $10 billion in annual aid that developed nations are promising to provide in funding for climate change adaptation and mitigation. But it seems likely that there will be plenty of double-counting of that aid money and it’s not enough to begin with to address either mitigation (i.e. low-carbon development) or adaptation. And it’s unclear what this will go towards, who will manage it, what it will truly be intended to do.

As they have in previous years, the negotiations pit the world’s wealthiest 1 billion people against the 3-4 billion who have gained a some level of prosperity and are rising quickly. Who will cut back on carbon – those who already emit a lot, or those who are emitting some and want to emit more in the future? With the negotiations set up like this, it quickly becomes a zero-sum game. Since the UN process relies on the commitment of the nations that constitute it, as a zero-sum game it becomes useless as a force to raise the bar towards clean and sustainable development.

Left out of this picture are the 2-3 billion people who are essentially not using modern energy – at best a little bit of electricity from an unreliable grid, a little bit of kerosene for lighting, diesel to operate machinery or transport, and maybe charcoal or LPG for cooking. But likely using firewood or other biomass for cooking and as likely as not having no access to electricity at all.


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Addressing the global clean technology challenge should be the focus of climate negotiations in Copenhagen, not carbon emissions reduction targets, writes TIME’s Bryan Walsh.

TIME’s Bryan Walsh emphasizes the need for the additional investments in clean energy technology highlighting the International Energy Agency’s call for $10.5 trillion between now and 2030 and citing a recent blog post by the Breakthrough Institute’s Jesse Jenkins and Devon Swezey:

But there is one number that may not get discussed much at Copenhagen, even though it is as important as all the others: $10.5 trillion. That is the additional investment needed between now and 2030 to set the world on the path to low-carbon development, according to the International Energy Agency — a number that is far above the pittance the world currently spends on clean energy research and development (R&D). As Jesse Jenkins and Devon Swezey of the think tank Breakthrough Institute wrote on Dec. 7: “Without measurable progress that dramatically increases global investments in clean energy, we can forget stabilizing global temperatures or atmospheric carbon dioxide at any level.” (more…)

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Originally posted at Americans for Energy Leadership

Source: National Science Foundation, Science and Engineering Indicators, 2008

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Cross-posted from LeadEnergy

An article at Bloomberg today, “Copenhagen Failure Defied by $200 Billion in Green Investments,” highlights the fact that China is now receiving more clean energy investment than the United States:

China Tops U.S.

Clean-energy development isn’t flowing to all countries equally, according to an October report from Deutsche Bank. Investment risks are lower in countries such as China and France that offer stronger incentives.

Investors spent $16.7 billion on clean energy in China in 2008, excluding stimulus funds, topping the U.S. total of $15.2 billion for the first time, said Jesse Jenkins, director of energy and climate policy at the Breakthrough Institute, an Oakland, California-based consulting firm.

Wind-energy producers in China get a premium for the electricity they supply to help make it competitive with cheaper power from burning coal or natural gas, he said.

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t draw clear conclusions about the critical role of government investment in driving these markets, as we explain in “Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant.” Instead the article cites Ralph Izzo, CEO of Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. as saying “U.S. companies are falling behind in clean technology because the country lacks a binding limit on carbon emissions, as would be required under a global treaty.” While it is true that a carbon cap would drive some private investment in clean technology, it would still be dwarfed by the direct public investments being made by China, South Korea, and Japan. Carbon capping and pricing is no substitute for a robust clean-tech innovation strategy, as we explain:


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Last month, U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), as well as Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI) introduced the Solar Manufacturing Jobs Creation Act, intended to boost the international competitiveness the U.S. solar manufacturing industry. After introducing the legislation, Senator Stabenow said it was necessary to “help us win the global race against China and other countries to produce solar technology in the clean energy economy.”

The bi-partisan legislation would extend the existing solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which offers a 30 percent tax credit for solar energy investment and deployment, to cover the construction of new solar manufacturing facilities as well. The ITC was recently given an eight-year extension in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA) of 2008.

The new legislation would also give solar manufacturers access to the temporary cash grant program created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which has successfully boosted the deployment of renewable technologies, primarily wind power.

The new U.S. legislation is the second in as many months that aims to support the domestic solar industry. In late October, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Solar Technology Roadmap Act, which would require the U.S. Department of Energy to appoint a group of experts to create a long-term plan to guide solar energy R&D and the commercialization of next-generation solar technologies. While the bill only authorizes $2.25 billion for solar R&D over the next five years, it represents a sizable increase in funding and a move toward a more strategic and targeted approach to clean energy development.

If the U.S. is to regain its position as a global leader in clean energy technology, and solar in particular, much more targeted policy support is needed. Both the Solar Technology Roadmap Act and the Solar Manufacturing Jobs Creation Act are important first steps forward in developing a comprehensive clean energy economy strategy capable of revitalizing the U.S. economy and making the United States a world leader in clean energy technology once again.


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A friend of mine attending the Youth Clean Energy Forum tomorrow asked me to suggest some talking points (for the administration and fellow youth leaders) and pre-readings. Here’s what I wrote (cross-posted from LeadEnergy):

I. Any successful global climate treaty has to go beyond the traditional framework of binding emissions targets. Kyoto failed. China, India, and the rest of the developing world have made it unequivocal that they will not adopt meaningful targets. The right model is shared government investments in technology development and economic development — as per the creation of the EU and the Marshall Plan — not bindings emissions targets, which allow politicians to commit to distant targets they ultimately have little or no responsibility for achieving. The International Energy Agency says $10 trillion in global clean energy investment is necessary over the next two decades. The UN recently called for $500-600 billion annually in developing countries alone, including adaptation efforts. One alternative that could accommodate a technology and investment-centered strategy is a “carbon cap equivalency” framework, explained here by Julian Wong et al. Another has been dubbed the “Direct Kaya Approach,” a targeted, sectoral-based strategy to directly reduce the carbon intensity of economies. Another is a “national schedules” approach. Regardless, what is demanded now is massive and immediate investment to develop and deploy low-carbon energy technology across the world, without which the next global climate treaty will surely fail.

II. The Senate climate bill must be significantly strengthened, particularly its investments in clean technology development and deployment, and the Obama administration and broader climate movement (including Energy Action Coalition) should support these efforts. These issues must be addressed: (1) The bill’s greenhouse gas emissions cap is effectively non-binding for the first decade or more, due to the authorization of massive levels of offsets, and it is unlikely to drive significant near-term changes in the U.S. energy economy. (2) The bill invests far less in clean energy technologies and industries than either the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) or the direct investments being made by competing nations, including China, South Korea and Japan. (3) The carbon price signal established by the cap and trade program is expected to be modest and insufficient to pull emerging clean energy technologies into the market or spur significant investment in clean energy innovation. (4) The renewable electricity standard established by the bill will not ensure any increase in U.S. renewable energy deployment beyond already conservative business-as-usual projections. For a full summary of Breakthrough Institute’s 20-part analysis of ACES, which the Senate bill is based on, see here.


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